Creating a Bad Reaction

By
Home Inspector with JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC HOI 394

Not all things blend well

oil and waterOil and water, a classic analogy for anything that doesn't combine well or at all. Like personalities and substances. With materials (and with people), combining certain substances (personalities) can form a volatile mix. Most people know not to blend house hold bleach and ammonia because they produce a toxic gas. Mixing vinegar and baking soda also creates a volatile reaction, however its simply fun to watch.

With buildings and houses, the same caution and knowledge needs to be applied. Mixing the wrong materials can cause detrimental reactions. A common example found in houses would be galvanic corrosion. Two dissimilar metals will react, depending on the amount of moisture, causing deterioration to the less noble material. The most recent example of this would be the newer formulated pressure treated woods and the flashings used with them. In particular aluminum. Since the newer woods are treated with more copper, the wood or actually the copper in the wood reacts with the aluminum, causing deterioration.

Foundation cracking due to alkali - silica reactionWhile inspecting the foundation of a newer house (1986), I discovered an unusual amount of cracking in the foundation walls. Now some degree of cracking in foundation walls is fairly frequent and not unexpected. What made this cracking unique was that it was pervasive throughout the visible portions of the walls. Also strange was the way in which the walls were cracking. Most common are single cracks running vertical / diagonal. These were spider web cracks. The larger cracks were running horizontal. The portions of the foundation walls below grade were covered in efflorescence, indicating that the cracks were transporting moisture and possibly water at times. Due to these conditions, my recommendation was to have an engineer further examine the walls.

Some days later I heard from the buyer's agent. The clients had walked away from the house and would be needing another inspection. He proceed to tell me about the foundation.

An engineer was hired to examine the walls as advised. His conclusion was the condition of the foundation was likely due to an alkali–silica reaction. To confirm the condition would require taking a core sample of the wall and expensive testing. He also found that the rear foundation wall was bowing inwards. The foundation over all was defective and failing.

The agent went on to say that after some research, the foundation issue was known to be present in other houses in the area and due to one particular company using an incompatible aggregate in the concrete mix. The reaction is said to take many years to manifest, about 15 - 20.

alkali - silica reactionIt is the concrete company's responsibility to test the aggregates they use and adjust the mix accordingly to prevent a reaction. The foundation condition is due to negligence on the concrete companies part. The repair is a new foundation must be poured. An estimated cost of $50,000.

While the buyer was saved from a huge future expense, the present owner is stuck with a house that is either un-saleable or must be sold at a significantly reduced price.

I think that they probably had a bad reaction to the news. 

Posted by

James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
Former SNEC-ASHI President
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

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Rainmaker
2,435,791
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

When I found out that a cement contractor would use fill dirt instead of extra cement when pouring (to save $), it made me realize how much I don't know about this. When he finished, it look like a baby's bottom all this brand new cement work. However, underneath, was more dirt instead of the concrete and many years later this secret would make itself known...what can you do? Hire a pro, get it done professionally and join the "you get what you pay for" crowd

Dec 08, 2014 09:38 PM #24
Rainmaker
380,320
John F Muscarella
RIVER FARM PROPERTIES, LLC - Venice, FL
Broker/Owner, Venice, FL, Florida's Suncoast

Gives more importance to "buyer beware."  Bit more difficult when the problem occurs many years after the mistake was created. 

Dec 08, 2014 10:51 PM #25
Rainer
57,071
Michael Ha Elmhurst
Rego Park, Forest Hills, Jackson Heights, Corona, Middle Village - Elmhurst, NY
Woodside, Maspeth

I just had to go back to this post to know what happened to the homeowner :)

Dec 09, 2014 12:53 AM #26
Rainer
57,071
Michael Ha Elmhurst
Rego Park, Forest Hills, Jackson Heights, Corona, Middle Village - Elmhurst, NY
Woodside, Maspeth

I just had to go back to this post to know what happened to the homeowner :)

Dec 09, 2014 12:53 AM #27
Rainmaker
729,725
Olga Simoncelli
Veritas Prime, LLC dba Veritas Prime Real Estate - New Fairfield, CT
CONSULTANT, Real Estate Services & Risk Management

James - I hope the company making the "defective" cement was notified and they stopped the bad mix. Copper pipes also do not mix well with excessive flux, have you seen that? Pinhole leaks tend to form in the first few years of new construction, especially if thinner copper pipes were used (believe no longer permitted by code).

Dec 09, 2014 06:45 AM #28
Anonymous
Bill Neal

I believe I am the engineer who examined this foundation. If anyone in the Connecticut area finds a similar problem, please let me know. This is an extremely significant problem for the owner of the property. I can help assess the situation and also know of efforts to give the owner financial relief.

Dec 09, 2014 09:05 AM #29
Rainmaker
683,909
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Lisa, Disturbing indeed to all involved.

Raymond, Guess not.

Lenn, First off, why would anyone deliberately hide such a serious, known structural defect. Virginia has some strange laws. In CT, once you know you have to disclose. The owner is now fully liable for the foundation issue. As is most often the case with latent defects in houses, the home inspector is often thought to be at fault, when in fact the owners had knowledge, but choose to cover it up. CT law is better for it protects those who can be hurt by covering up known issues with the house.

Dec 09, 2014 09:20 PM #30
Rainmaker
683,909
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Andrew, That's not a pour line, it's a crack, one of many.

Geoff, I was told there are suits against the company. 

Charlie, One never knows. Good, cheap insurance. 

Norma, You and I know that, but not all buyers are so thoroughly convinced. 

Richard, Oh they ran.

Joshua, There was A LOT of crap in the basement. 

Nicole, No argument here :) 

Fred, They were appreciative. 

Dec 09, 2014 09:27 PM #31
Rainmaker
683,909
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Michael, Thanks.

Jenna, These buyers are very convinced :)

Mike, No idea, they are not my client, so I will probably never know how this plays out.

Jeanne, As I said to Mike, not likely to happen.

Richard, Even still, some people just don't get it.

Ed, The effloresence is part of the condition as is the bowing, which is due to the foundation failing.

Praful, Money is usually the motivation.

Kevin, Hence the reason for a home inspection :)

Gary and Meylnda, I guess so.

Leanne, As I hear it, they have been sued by other homeowners.

Claude, You have never heard that about bleach and ammonia. I guess its a good thing you read this :)

Dec 09, 2014 09:39 PM #32
Rainmaker
683,909
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Evelyn, Exactly. The issue is not apparent at the time. 

Richie, There is that philosophy, which is usually sound, but you never know. 

John, Which is why the temptation to cheat is probably greater. 

Michael, Really no way for me to know.

Olga, As I said, this occurred long ago.

Bill, Yes, I was told it was you who did the evaluation. 

Dec 09, 2014 09:45 PM #33
Rainmaker
441,564
Scott Seaton Jr. Bourbonnais Kankakee IL Home Inspector
SLS Home Inspections-Bradley Bourbonnais Kankakee Manteno - Bourbonnais, IL
The Home Inspector With a Heart!

Holy crap, what a mess. I have never seen this. Thanks James.

Dec 09, 2014 10:43 PM #34
Rainmaker
683,909
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Scott, Nor have I. Definitely wanted to share this one. 

Dec 09, 2014 10:52 PM #35
Rainmaker
488,648
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC - Wenatchee, WA
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

James Quarello   Jim, This is awesome. Great job. Thanks for the info on this. After you sent me this I went and did a bunch of research and looks like we have had some issues in our state also, in some major building projects to boot. 

Really good stuff thanks!!!!

Dec 10, 2014 11:32 AM #36
Rainmaker
683,909
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Don, Thanks. This is quite unique. Thought it was very share worthy :) 

Dec 10, 2014 09:26 PM #37
Rainmaker
917,488
Ginger Harper
Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage - Southport, NC
Your Southport~Oak Island Agent~Brunswick County!

That is a mess.  Glad you shared this with us.

Great info.

Dec 12, 2014 10:56 PM #38
Rainmaker
683,909
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Thanks Ginger.

Dec 12, 2014 11:33 PM #39
Rainmaker
1,840,105
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Sorry I missed this the other day!  This is a great post Jim.

Not only have I never seen such an example as this, I did know that the mix of concrete is essential.  I had never read anything like your link though.  Great stuff.

It appears from the link that the problem originates with the mix and not necessarily the alkali in the soil.  Certainly moisture exacerbates it though.  Interesting that it takes so long! 

I saw your answer to Lenn.  There is no disclosure in VA which gives people lots of room.  In one house I inspected the people piled boxes along the foundation wall to hide problems from me, and then I got blamed when the boxes were removed to reveal serious foundation cracks.  Fortunately I had taken a photo of something else that revealed the array of boxes in the background.  The lawyer said the legal term was "artful concealment."  That got me off.  But to think they tried to blame the home inspector is really a bother.  Why me?  You mean I just simply missed it?  The sellers have no blame?  Like I said, it leaves lots of room for sellers to play.  Then they can later claim they simply did not know it was a problem and had to have somewhere to pile their stuff!  Which they did here.  So my clients were dissatisfied with me and their house.  That stinks.

Does that answer your question to Lenn?  (Joshua hit it on the head!)

Dec 13, 2014 11:14 PM #40
Anonymous
Dwight Uffer

Jim,

Great find!! I also had an experience with ASR in Vernon and also in Tolland CT back in 2007 and 2004. In both instances the buyer bailed out and the home owner had to have the foundation replaced. The quarry that supplied the aggregate and concrete have long gone out of business. You will also find ASR occurrences in a parking garage in Bridgeport,CT and other commercial structures throughout the state. The aggregate in these other cases came from a different supplier in those cases. Inspectors should take head, as there are numerous residential foundations across the state that have been affected by ASR and yet to be discovered.

Mar 02, 2015 12:46 AM #41
Rainmaker
683,909
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Jay, Never saw your comment. In a law seminar I attended, the lawyer who specializes in home inspection cases pointed out that most, if not all of the time, it is the seller to blame, not the inspector.  Seller's know there is a crack in the wall, or the basement floods or the floors are sagging, the list goes on. It is as you said, often a case of artful concealment with the inspector left to reveal the rabbit or take the blame. 

Mar 02, 2015 09:10 PM #42
Rainmaker
683,909
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Dwight, Thanks! That is the area where I have now found out this condition is fairly common. And the buyer couldn't bail fast enough from this one :) I actually feel bad for the seller. From my understanding, the issue is easily avoidable by the concrete company. Now a homeowner is stuck with an unsalable house and a huge repair expense. 

Mar 02, 2015 09:14 PM #43
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